Mother pleads for her own release
By Katie Conner/KTVL.com
GRANTS PASS, Ore. Wendy Maldonado, a victim of brutal domestic abuse, says she had two options: kill or be killed. Even though, courts agree she was tortured for years, she was still sentenced to prison. Now, shes seeking clemency from Oregon Governor.
The killing happened in May 2005 at the couple's Grant Pass home.
When she was 17-years-old, Wendy married Aaron. The teenage bride quickly became a teenage mom, giving birth to their first son Randy.
When Randy was about 18 months old, was the first time he told me his fantasies of torture and becoming a serial killer, said Wendy. I knew I was in a situation I couldn't get out of.
For over 18 years, Wendy was abused nearly every day of her life. She says Aaron would hold a lighter under her wrists, choke her and even knock out her teeth.
There's so many times I probably was dead, but I would wake up to him kicking me and yelling at me, said Wendy.
Perhaps the most gruesome abuse of all was the kill spot. Wendy says it was a spot in the middle of the forest where Aaron would take her a few times a week. She says Aaron would give her ten second to convince him, not to kill her, with a machete.
Over the next few years, the couple had three more sons: Marshal, Joshua and Tyler.
It wasnt until May 1, 2005 that the nightmare came to an end and a new one began.
Wendy told her oldest son Randy, who was 17-years-old at the time, Im going to do it I am going to kill him.
¨Randy couldnt let his mother kill Aaron alone, so they did it together. The two attacked Aaron with a hammer and hatchet while he was sleeping.
Wendy quickly called 911 and admitted to the killing.
Hours later, both Wendy and Randy were arrested for the murder. At that moment in the eyes of Oregons law, she was no longer a victim, rather the abuser.
In order to qualify for the self defense, you have to be in imminent bodily harm," attorney Mark Lansing said. "And of course the problem in this particular case, she was not in imminent harm at the time, he was actually sleeping.
Wendy and Randy never went to trial. Instead the two accepted a plea bargain.
The presiding judge called the case the worst case of domestic violence any of us have ever seen.
Randy testified during sentencing, explaining the years of abuse he endured:
I remember one thing my father used to tell me, its kind of like a mantra or verse that stuck in my head. He used to tell us that if we called the cops, tried to get help, or told anybody what was going on, hed go kidnap everyone on my moms side of the family and kill them all. He said hed kill them all one by one until we came back to him. I remember when I was about five or six he described to me how hed kill my cousin Earshel. Earshel was my closest cousin to me, in age and relationship, hes like me brother. He told me hed cut off Earshels fingers and toes first. Then hed use a knife to peel off all of his skin. After that he would cut his head off with his machete. He then told me he would eat his flesh¦.I never wanted to be responsible for something happening to Earshel.
Wendy was sentenced to ten years in prison and Randy six.
Randy was released in 2012. However, Wendy is still behind bars and is seeking clemency from Governor John Kitzhaber.
Clemency is a variety of different things, Lansing said. You can get an outright pardon, where people have been falsely accused. Or in this case, what were asking for is a reduction in the sentence.
Lansing submitted a clemency request to Kitzhaber in August 2012. In it, Lansing uses evidence to build a case explaining why Wendy had no option but to kill.
Never was Wendy able to speak freely to people about the threats and harm, said Lansing.
Lansing says Aaron had video surveillance around the home, so neither Wendy nor the children could call for help.
Were not suggesting that the killing did not occur, said Lansing. Were suggesting it was justified in the circumstances, even though is doesnt fit within Oregons definition of justifiable homicide.
The Governor wrote Wendy back, saying he would make his decision by February 2013.
The more you read, the more appalled and amazed you become about the injustice here, Lansing said. I think she deserves to be set free here.
If you would like to write a letter to Governor Kitzhaber supporting Wendys clemency, the address is:
Governor John A. Kitzhaber
160 State Capital
900 Court Street
Salem, OR 97301-4047